WHO WE ARE
The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the architectural, geographic and cultural resources in Franklin and Williamson County, Tennessee, and to continue the revitalization of Downtown Franklin in the context of historic preservation. Among our programs is the award-winning Main Street Program, the Downtown Franklin Association, which promotes and revitalizes the 150 unique places to explore in the 15-block downtown National Register District.
In the late 1960’s Franklin lost one of its best-known, architecturally-significant antebellum homes when it was torn down to make way for a gas station. The loss of that prominent home at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Bridge Street, built by landowner Nicholas Perkins, outraged a small group of determined citizens. A town with significant historical resources and agrarian roots was losing those assets to urban sprawl. The loss galvanized those citizens into forming the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County.
On March 7, 1967, an organizational meeting was held, and the founders were some of the most well-known citizens in the community. They included James H. Armistead Sr., John Beasley, Sue Douglas Berry, Billy Billington, Duncan Callicott, Stewart Campbell Sr., Mrs. James H. Campbell, Henry Goodpasture, Judge Frank Gray Jr., Mrs. George Harris, Mrs. Willis Hayes, Judge John Henderson, Mrs. William King, J.N.W. Lee III, Mrs. Livingfield More, Glen Noble, Paul Ogilvie and James Watkins.
This group established the mission “to conserve the best of the past and to plan for the benefit of the future.”
Board members attended National Trust conferences, visited historic towns and brought back what they learned. They realized that to make historic preservation meaningful it had to be done in the context of the whole community with attention to preserving the historic heritage of all its citizens.
They began with historic buildings. The entire 15-block downtown and three surrounding residential districts were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. An education campaign on the importance of historic preservation was initiated, and that spawned the Heritage Classroom program, which brought local history programs and downtown walking tours to area schoolchildren. Attention then turned to Franklin’s historic Main Street, already assured its place on the National Register, but obscured by aluminum siding, competing signs and lackluster businesses. Members visualized a revitalized downtown streetscape complete with buried utility lines, improved streets and sidewalks, landscaping, and access to the gorgeous Victorian brick and architecture hiding behind the facades. An ambitious Streetscape project transformed five blocks of Main Street and the public square into the charming retail district we recognize today, gained Franklin national recognition as a historic treasure, and brought Franklin a Great American Main Street Award in 1995.
Another major change took place on November 25, 1998, when the Heritage Foundation merged with the Downtown Franklin Association, which had been created in 1982 to promote the continued viability of Franklin’s central business district. As a unified force the Heritage Foundation and the DFA are better equipped to preserve Franklin’s rich past while ensuring an equally promising future.
As the heart of our community was saved, attention turned to the rural landscapes, gateways and corridors that were slipping away to strip shopping centers and urban sprawl. This time, growth and development pressure required a more comprehensive approach to historic preservation. The organization began to identify and focus its efforts on the critical growth and preservation issues facing Franklin and Williamson County. The Heritage Foundation has tried to find a way to balance the growth of our community with the importance of preserving a sense of place and historic, geographic and cultural resources.
Thanks to the Foundation, more than 150 Williamson County properties are on the National Register of Historic Places, more than in any Tennessee County; more in fact, than any place outside of Virginia. In addition, the Foundation has purchased or been instrumental in saving more than 40 properties in Williamson County, including the Franklin Theatre, Carnton Plantation, Dr. McPhail’s office on E. Main Street, Dan German Hospital, Roper’s Knob, the McLemore House, the Lotz House, and the Cotton Gin Site on Columbia Avenue. In recent years there have been other struggles too: to keep the post office, the courthouse and the library in downtown Franklin; to urge residential zoning and planning to mitigate sprawl; and to encourage true neighborhoods.
WHAT WE DO
As one of the nation’s most respected historic preservation societies, we work tirelessly to save the architectural and cultural resources that make Franklin and Williamson County so unique.
Today the Heritage Foundation works on four fronts:
We preserve by advocating and raising funds to preserve the places that matter, including historic buildings, Civil War sites, green space, and other community resources such as the downtown post office.
The Heritage Foundation and the DFA actively promote the businesses in the historic district and partner with the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote downtown Franklin as a destination.
The Heritage Classroom Program brings Williamson County history to more than 4,000 public, private and homeschooled children each year through classroom programs and walking tours of downtown. We produce the Tour of Homes every spring, making private residences and their rich pasts available for public tours. In addition, we support the efforts of Rick Warwick as he continues to research and document Williamson County’s history and educate the public on historic resources.
- Festival and Events
Local residents enjoy a variety of street festivals and events produced by the Heritage Foundation and its affiliates. Three Blind Vines, Main Street Brew Fest, Main Street Festival, the Heritage Ball, Pumpkinfest, Dickens of a Christmas and the monthly Art Scene all bring locals and visitors to downtown Franklin.
For 46 years the Heritage Foundation has been the one consistent advocate of the quality of life we all hold precious.
It welcomes everyone who wants life in Franklin and Williamson County to be as good for their children and grandchildren as it is for us today. We continued to be committed to protecting and preserving the architectural, geographical and cultural heritage of Franklin and Williamson County.